Travellers ‘could face 10-hour airport queues’ due to COVID checks

·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: People queue at UK border control at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport on February 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images)
People queue at UK border control at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. (Getty)

With foreign holidays set to be allowed again from next month, travellers are being warned they face hours of queues when flying back to the UK.

The next part of Boris Johnson’s lockdown-easing road map will see some indoor socialising allowed, while Britons will be able to fly abroad for holidays to certain destinations.

However, the ISU union for borders, immigration and customs workers, are predicting queues of up to 10 hours at airports while stringent COVID checks are carried out.

Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the ISU, told The i: “We saw delays for seven or eight hours last summer, and with all the additional checks then we could see people waiting as long as 10 hours.

LONDON, Dec. 21, 2020 -- People queue to enter the departures area at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, on Dec. 21, 2020. A number of European countries on Dec. 20 began to ban flights from Britain following the emergence of a highly infectious variant of coronavirus. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Tim Ireland via Getty Images)
People queue to enter the departures area at Heathrow Airport. (Getty)

“There’s no way around the delays at the border because Border Force officers will have to check the COVID status of all arrivals and that takes around 15 minutes per person.

“So, people from all over the world will be mixing inside for a long time.”

The government said it is planning to automate the pre-departure COVID test forms required to travel so travellers can use e-gates – but this method has yet to be put in place.

Currently, people who can travel have to have their forms checked manually, resulting in large queues.

Watch: Minister urges people not to book summer holidays yet

But Simon McNamara, area manager for UK and Ireland at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), added that they were “not optimistic” that the government would be able to deliver on their promise of opening up foreign travel from 17 May.

He added: “We keep asking what will change on the 17 May that will stop the queues we’re seeing and we’ve yet to be reassured that things will improve sufficiently.”

The warnings follow similar predictions from Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye, who last month said that he Home Office and UK Border Force “need to get a grip” on the checks.

He told Sky News: "We are focused on 17 May, we are getting ready to open up then, working with the airlines to make sure we can give a really warm welcome to passengers.

"But the key question is whether Border Force will be ready to receive those passengers when they come into the country, so they have a smooth journey through the airport and not the kind of lengthy queues that unfortunately we have seen too often in recent weeks.”

The government is currently preparing to publish a green list for foreign holiday destinations and the travel advice gives an indication of what destinations could be on it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: A plane arrives at Heathrow Airport on February 26, 2021 in London, England. Travellers arriving in the UK from February 15 2021 onwards from countries on the
Foreign Travel is set to be allowed again from 17 May. (Getty)

Tourists visiting a number of popular summer hotspots do not face a level of risk for coronavirus that is “unacceptably high”, according to the latest updates from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The FCDO is not advising against non-essential travel to Portugal (excluding the Azores), Spain’s Canary Islands or the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete.

Brits hoping to holiday abroad once permitted may cause a surge in airport foot traffic as sun-seekers head to EU countries.

The bloc has suggested it could reopen its borders in June to anyone who has been fully vaccinated against COVID.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown